My spring season in the ceramics concentration at Penland School of Craft was an exploration in form, touch, finish, and friendmaking. Most of the artists I met at Penland were at major points of life transition; leaving jobs, relationships and homes with optimism, and trusting that whatever comes next is going to be okay. I cherished the youthful, expectant, spring newborn chickens vibe, which will forever represent for me a special time for rest and refinement.
Our teacher, Cynthia Bringle brought 50+ years of experience to the studio, and taught in a unique way. A couple times each day, she sat at her potters wheel at the front of the room and quietly demonstrated our next task. Many instructors talk their way through a demo, giving step by step instructions while their audience shifts between doodling and watching. Cynthia Bringle’s lesson is a lesson for the eye. Many times, if you looked away, you missed it! We absolutely had to watch in order to learn. If someone asked a question about a step, her hands, or a tool, she would deflect, and reply in good humor by asking “Would you like me to do it again?”
The answer was always “Yes!” We would watch again and again, each time taking away a new observation. She was giving us an eye for editing our own work. Also, she gave a mode for learning and experimenting that was heavy on fundamentals, but completely freeing. Our experimentation, or whatever individual flair we thought worth trying, was rooted in lightness, balance, and form; a quick union of what the hand feels and the eye sees.